Parent-child closeness can happen in expected and unexpected ways. I was a single parent for most of my children's growing up years. I tend to recall the happy memories, though diary entries from the 1970's indicate I had times of feeling harried, inadequate, worried, etc., all normal emotions for most parents. It was relatively easy to feel connected to my son Nick when I attended his baseball games and encouraged him in Boy Scouts. These days, I'm more likely to feel connected when we talk about stock market investing or go for a walk with his dog.
Katie, two years younger, delighted me as a child with her gymnastic skills, on the playground or in a class. We had some tough times when she was a teenager but survived those years. A year ago she joined the gym that I've been going to for a bit longer. I was pleased when she joined, not only because I know it's a healthy choice, but because we'd spend regular time together. Though we've never been "best friends" as some moms and daughters are, at the gym we've talked about the daily stuff that often isn't shared when you only get together once a month. I've seen Katie relate comfortably to the other women there, to easily take on the discipline of regular weights and cardiovascular programs. She goes five or six days a week; I feel proud to go three times. I wouldn't have believed how natural it is (like telling all during your haircut) to talk about all the little pieces that flesh out our day. Getting together once a month is like reading the chapter titles of a book. You know what it's about but can't really discuss the contents. Talking a few times a week gets you into the story. You get hooked--in a good way--and want to read more. Though I'd walked the six blocks to Fitness for Women since I joined, I felt "taken care of" to be picked up and dropped off. We'd share incidents, provocations, outings, foibles, "he said.then I said." interchanges, and it's like sitting in bed at night with a good novel. Only it's more. This is my daughter, and she is still learning, growing, relating. As she tells of the time she takes with her partner's other daughter, of picking up a carless friend to go shopping, of encouraging her brother in exercise by joining him, I am very proud of this generous and thoughtful woman. I am grateful that neither of my children smoke, pleased that they pay back loans I've made, content that there are many areas where we agree to disagree. I needn't flinch or make excuses when I say "These are my kids." Now Katie and I have fairly different values. She always looks good; I usually dress for comfort. She often has her nails done; I rarely use a hair dryer-too much bother. But over the years I think we've gotten to accept (if not always approve of) each other's lifestyle. I know I may embarrass her if I just "throw something on" and we're going to a restaurant or the like. So, even if I feel a slight rankling at "compromising who I am", I take a bit of extra care when we're going out to show my honoring of her values.
Those of you who are parents know what I mean. We're a bit on a tightrope. Many of our friends might welcome suggestions or observations on how we experience them. But our kids might label such comments as "none of our business." Since I have my own issues with authority, having grown up an Iowa Catholic farm girl who internalized as true whatever my parents or the Church said, I don't want to pass on that ambivalence about (if not rebellion against) my pronouncements. As a parent, I may have a difference of opinion regarding Katie's parenting of my granddaughter Kayla, 5. Still, I don't need much more than the look of delight on Kayla's face when Katie picks her up after we've gone to Magnuson Park playground, or to Seattle Center, to know that these two wonderful people love each other a lot. I may wish Katie did some things differently around her financial and time priorities, but then, I certainly did many things differently than my mother, with her nine kids, did with me. I suspect that Katie's generosity with her daughter will give Kayla such a feeling of security and abundance that she will easily and generously share from that plenitude. I did not have the financial resources when my two were young to offer as much to them materially. Our core values--being there for our children's needs--are certainly the same. Sharing the love of Kayla has strengthened the bond with Katie. I've teased Nick about when he's going to give me another grandchild, but he doesn't have a partner, so it is premature teasing. He and I share more business interests. I had last year wondered if Nick would be able to sell his condo, buy a house and have a dog. He hoped so, and sometimes hope is the first and most important ingredient in a recipe for dreams come true. (He made it happen recently). He always wanted a dog, and now Joey has a fenced yard, and Kayla considers him her dog too. I'm proud he was able to buy a house at age 29. He's come a long way financially.
Like many parents, I see choices they make that I would not make. But I don't need to focus on the differences. The pride comes from seeing that these two adults are honest, respectable, likable, caring humans. I am proud of you, Nick and Katie.